Editor’s Note: Iron Spartan is a retired Army RSTA NCO, an automation and heavy industry specialist, father and family man.
“So, what can you do?” Such a simple phrase seems to strike fear into the hearts of too many who are trying to take their first steps into the real world. If you have no idea how to answer that question, you’re not alone. A staggering number of adults can’t do basic home maintenance, auto maintenance, or even handle basic computer troubleshooting.
Shop and trades classes have been lost in many schools, and fathers increasingly never learned skills to pass on to their children What’s worse is that even when someone decides to become a teacher in these dying arts, hostile administrations drive them out and talent-starved industries offer salaries that few schools can match. An education that doesn’t have a vocational component is drastically incomplete.
There are things that you learn from doing and building that no amount of theory can replicate. Skills that are not used will be lost
The first is the connection of mathematics and the real world. Basic arthritic is taught this way in elementary school for a reason: it works and it works well. As soon as middle school and high school comes, this goes by the wayside and that connection gets lost. The ability to work with standard fractions (1/2, 1/4, 1/8, etc.) is the first ability that is lost. Building things from wood and metal is the perfect way to keep it.
A vocational education helps keep you grounded. Something either works or it doesn’t. Your wants or feelings on the matter will not affect the outcome in any way. It doesn’t matter what you think or how you feel; you cannot cut aluminum or stainless steel with an oxy torch.
Actions have consequences, and mistakes often leave scars. Cut something too short and at a minimum there will have to be a patch job done, and it may not be able to be hidden. This doesn’t mean that you quit. You do your best to figure out a way to make it work. A big enough mistake, however, is something that may cause the project to have to be scrapped. This is a very valuable lesson that can only be experienced. When this happens, don’t quit. Starting over and seeing the project to completion is important, so that newly learned lessons can be applied.
The greatest gift of a vocational education is the understanding that a problem is a chance to learn. Its doesn’t take much, but it does take a understanding of basic principles to see a problem and say “I can fix this,” versus “Oh my god, how much is this going to cost for someone else to fix?”
A basic education in the trades can save a person hundreds or thousands of dollars a year in basic maintenance costs. Knowing how to use basic tools and a quick YouTube search can fix most basic problems. Professionals are still needed for the bigger problems, but why pay $50 for someone to install an air filter in your car or $100 for someone to change a worn belt?
Prior to World War II, a basic vocational education was something that every father was expected to pass on to his son. It is something that needs to make a comeback.